Uruguay has the longest Carnival Competition in the world! Starting at the end of January each year, local carnival groups compete for more than 40 days in 5 different categories for the Carnival title.
The two most popular categories are ¨murga¨ and ¨comparsa¨ (officially Sociedad de Negros y Lubolos).
Murga combines different cultural and musical influences from Spain and Italy, but has developed into something uniquely Uruguayan. Murga-Groups consist of (at least) 17 members: 13 singers, 1 director and 3 percussionists playing cymbal, snare drum and bass drum. Nowadays, the murga groups take to the stage to criticize and make fun of society, politics and important events that have happened during the previous year through song. Costumes and make-up will remind you of Venetian Carnival and the murga groups´ singing-technique is inspired by opera - goose bumps are guaranteed!
Comparsa is the name for a Candombe group including the drum players, dancers and different characters that represent the African heritage. Candombe is a drum-based rhythm and a dance that African slaves brought to Uruguay in the 18th Century and used as a means to preserve their culture. Nowadays, it is one of the most interesting facets of Uruguayan culture and was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009. During the Uruguayan Carnival, the comparsas compete against each other in the so called ¨Llamadas¨. The Llamadas, the ¨Calling of the drums¨ is the name of the drum parades that take place every first Thursday and Friday of February in the Barrio Sur neighborhood in Montevideo. But the comparsas also compete in the Teatro de Verano, the official Carnival venue, with a theater-performance.